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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Food as Medicine: White Blood Cells

A friend asked me on Facebook what she could do to boost her white blood cells (her count was low.) I was happy to make a few suggestions of foods that would support an increase in a healthy way.

The thing about white blood cells is that they fight infection- the cells literally attack intruders to the body (or what they perceive as intruders.) But they are not the only component of a healthy immune system. Boosting white blood cells will help you fight disease, but if you contract an illness (whether big or small) while you are in the process of building those numbers, you might have a setback (your body might not be able to quickly replace them at the rate the cells are being lost in "battle.") So keeping the other parts of the immune system in top shape and preventing an illness in the first place is critical while you work to raise the count.

  • First, exercise, drinking lots of water, sleeping adequately, keeping stress to a minimum, and avoiding processed sugar (except from whole fruit) are all essential for general health. The reason they are important, especially when it comes to the immune system and white blood cells is acidity. Often our bodies are too acidic from poor food choices (sugar and refined carbs, meat, and dairy are the biggest culprits.) But other factors increasing acidity are stress and poor sleep. This environment is less than hospitable to probiotics, or good bacteria, in our gut. Taking care of the basics is imperative to raising alkalinity.
  • There are foods that help- kale, spinach, carrots, garlic, almonds- all raw if possible to protect the vitamin A. Vitamin A, more specifically carotenes, strengthen white blood cell count and also protect the immune system in general. (source)
  • Garlic, coconut oil and honey are really important for the immune system- all are naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal. If one is opposed to honey for ethical reasons, the garlic and coconut oil are still both beneficial.
  • Dark leafy greens are especially important- partly because they have so much chlorophyll (some people call it "plant blood." I have read it literally helps your body build blood.) Leafy greens are also incredibly alkalizing, which thereby makes your gut a better home for the good bacteria. It would be nearly impossible to overdose on leafy greens, they are so fibrous and filling. Many raw vegans juice greens so they can get a large amount of the nutrients available in them without filling up too quickly.
  • Coconut water is great for repair, hydration, replacing electrolytes, etc. I have read it was used in IVs in past wars because the pH and electrolytes match human blood.
  • Probiotics are essential for the immune system- you can get them in yogurt and raw sauerkraut. If your gut really needs a big boost it comes in a powder form that you can mix with milk, smoothies, etc. It has no flavor and should be refrigerated and kept dry to keep it dormant but not kill it off.
  • Sprouts are excellent for health in general, but especially for fighting off various diseases. They have super-concentrated doses of the nutrients their full grown versions would have (ie broccoli sprouts have much higher nutritional value than regular broccoli would.) They would help a great deal in keeping you healthy while also building the cell count.
  • Protein and iron are important too, but not as important as if the problem were with RED blood cells. Not to mention, there is plenty of protein and iron to be had in the foods noted above and other plant sources.

Have a health concern you would like to address nutritionally in addition to- or before- conventional methods? See my website for contact information! We can customize the approach we take according to specific issues, or if you would like to overhaul your whole diet I can help with that too. Thanks for reading and for taking an interest in your health!

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